In Yukie’s Island: My Family’s World War II Story, a young 8-year-old Yukie Kimura narrates her upbringing during World War II in northern Japan, living the life of a lighthouse keeper’s daughter. With her brother Yoshio, they go on adventures and scour the shoreline, where they find seagull eggs and seafood. Their studious older sister, Yasue, on the other hand, prefers reading over exploring. Even though they knew a war was happening, their young imaginations allow them to be anything they want to be, aside from children living through conflict and fear.

However, when the bombing reaches their tiny island with the lighthouse, life as they know it changes drastically and things after the war will never be the same. Despite the trauma and destruction that is brought upon their lives, Yoshio, Yasue, and Yukie are still able to find a path toward healing through imagination and play. Even though Yukie was skeptical about not fearing anything after the war, hope and a feeling of safety arise once her imagination allows her to become an explorer again, jumping on floating ice floes with her siblings as the sun begins to set.

For co-writer and illustrator Kōdo Kimura, collaborating and illustrating this story with his mother, Yukie, was a fun process, and shared, “I asked many questions when I visited her in Japan, or through video calls. She remembered many details which I had never heard before, and those were very exciting moments.”

Kimura’s mother, Yukie, shared her childhood stories as a daughter of a lighthouse guard with him many times, but he never intended to turn those stories into a book. It was through the excitement of author Steven Sheinkin (who Kimura shared and translated the stories with) that the idea of a picture book emerged.

While Kimura’s art career spans decades, starting with art school in Tokyo and then moving to the United States in 1992 (first to Seattle, then New York City), this book is the first picture book he has ever illustrated. The illustrations reflect his painting style and philosophy, which capture still scenes and details, rather than highlighting action and movement.

During the process of writing Yukie’s Island: My Family’s World War II Story, Kimura also discovered his aunt Yasue’s memoir, which provided a breadth of information that was imperative to the writing of the book. With his aunt being five years older than his mother, she was able to share insightful details about their upbringing in Japan during World War II.

This story offers an accessible way for readers, both young and old, to understand the impacts of war from the unique perspective of a child living through its realities in Japan. Through Yukie’s Island: My Family’s World War II Story, Kimura hopes that readers think deeply about how we can honor the expansiveness of humanity, as individuals with families, friends, and loved ones, searching for happiness. Kimura expressed: “If teachers can use this book as a tool for kids to bridge the gap in history and feel a kinship with children growing up during a very different time, I would be very grateful.”

More information on Yukie’s Island: My Family’s World War II Story, including information to purchase the book, can be found online.

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